- The Washington Times - Friday, June 25, 2004

Maybe it’s just time to accept FIDE’s world knockout championship with all its shortcomings and imperfections.

Featuring another less-than-stellar field, the international chess federation’s 128-player event got under way in Tripoli, Libya, June 19. The crapshoot format featuring two-game matches and rapid and blitz playoffs is no way to determine the world’s best player, but the event can make up in drama what it lacks in equity.

There already have been the customary pre-tournament controversies. Israel’s top players are absent after being refused visas from host Libya, and several top American players have boycotted the event as well.

The world’s top three rated players — Russians Garry Kasparov and Vladimir Kramnik and India’s Viswanathan Anand — also are skipping the event, a reflection of the bitter jurisdictional fights that still plague the game. English super-GM Nigel Short is already out of the tournament, losing his second-round match after hanging a rook to Polish GM Michal Krasenkov.

Favorites Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and England’s Michael Adams have made it safely into the 16-player fourth round, as has New York teenage star Hikaru Nakamura, the only American still in the running.

The two-game elimination matches can make for high drama when a favored player loses the first game. Georgian GM Zurab Azmaiparashvili found himself in just such a hole in the very first round against Iranian IM Morteza Mahjoob, needing a win in the second game just to force a playoff.

Instead of playing it safe, however, the Georgian risked a brilliant, speculative queen sacrifice that produced a sparkling 30-move win.

A great exponent of the Pirc as Black, Azmaiparashvili decides to play the defense with the colors reversed in his must-win game. To his credit, Mahjoob doesn’t play it safe, making a sharp bid for queen-side space with 10. Rd1 Rab8!? 11. Be3 b5.

Snatching the pawn appears to cost a piece, but White instead launches a stunning sacrifice of his queen for two minor pieces with 12. Nxb5!! Na5 (seemingly winning the knight when the White queen backs off) 13. Nxd6! Nxc4 14. Nxc4 Qe6 (two Black pawns were attacked, but Mahjoob might have been better off preserving the a-pawn) 15. Bxa7 Bxf3 16. Bxf3.

White’s two bishops prove to be both offensive and defensive monsters, while Black’s queen finds no soft points to target. White’s elementary winning plan: Push the a-pawn relentlessly and clear the center to give the bishops scope.

Even with a queen and rook on the second rank, Mahjoob generates no counterplay. The finale: 25. a6 Qb8 26. d6! c6 27. Bxc6 Qxd6 28. Bxf6, and Black resigns in the face of the hopeless 28…Qxf6 (Qxd1+ 29. Nxd1 gxf6 30. a7 Re1+31. Kg2 and wins) 29. Rxd8+ Qxd8 30. a7, and White gets back the queen he sacrificed 16 moves earlier.

GM Walter Browne, a six-time U.S. champion, was the clear class of the field in winning last weekend’s 35th annual Virginia Open in Springfield. Browne conceded a last-round draw to Maryland expert Harry Cohen to take clear first at 41/2-1/2, with Cohen and Andrew Samuelson tied for second at 4-1.

In the Under-1900 Amateur section, Andrew Briscoe’s perfect 5-0 score took first, followed by Michael McHale and Barry Quillon a half-point back. We’ll have more prizewinners and some action from the event in next week’s column.

St. John’s University in Manhattan is hosting the U.S. women’s championship this month, featuring seven of the country’s strongest female players. Through midweek, master Jennifer Shahade had three wins and a draw for a 11/2 point lead on the field.

WFM Tatev Abrahamyan showed how to deflect an opponent’s evil intentions in a nice win over WGM Rusudan Goletiani in New York. In a Sicilian, Black’s hopes for a queen-side attack on Abrahamyan’s king are neatly sidetracked by a timely exchange sacrifice.

Thus: 18. g5! Bxh3 (Nxe4 19. Nxe4 Bxh3 20. Nxd6+ Bxd6 21. Qxd6 is much better for White) 19. gxf6 gxf6 (see diagram) 20. Rxh3!. Black must recapture or wind up just a piece down, but now her queen is marooned far from the action. White’s own attack quickly crashes through.

The pressure is overwhelming on 20…Qxh3 21. Nf5! (permanently locking the Black queen out of the game) Rd8 22. Qd5 Qxf3 23. Rg1, and White has a total bind on the position.

White cashes in after 23…Bf8 (Kf8 24. Qb7! Re8 25. Bxh6+ Rxh6 26. Nxh6 and the threat of mate on g8 is decisive) 24. Qc6+ Rd7 25. Bb6 Be7 (stops the mate but loses the rook) 26. Ng7+ Kf8 27. Qxd7. With mate on tap after 27…Kg8 28. Ne6+ Qg4 29. Rxg4+ Kh7 30. Rg7 mate, Goletiani resigned.

FIDE World Championships, Tripoli, Libya, June 2004


1. g3Nf616. Bxf3e4

2. Bg2d517. Bg2exd3

3. d3e518. exd3Rbd8

4. Nf3Bd619. a4Qf5

5. c4dxc420. d4Rfe8

6. Qa4+Nc621. a5Re2

7. Qxc40-022. d5Qc2

8. 0-0Bg423. Ne3Qxb2

9. Nc3Qd724. Bd4Qb4

10. Rd1Rab825. a6Qb8

11. Be3b526. d6c6

12. Nxb5Na527. Bxc6Qxd6

13. Nxd6Nxc428. Bxf6Qxf6

14. Nxc4Qe629. Rxd8+Qxd8

15. Bxa7Bxf330. a7Black


U.S. Women’s Championship, New York, June 2004


1. e4c515. Be3Be6

2. Nf3d616. Bh3Qc8

3. d4cxd417. Ng3Rb8

4. Nxd4Nf618. g5Bxh3

5. Nc3Nc619. gxf6gxf6

6. f3e620. Rxh3Qxh3

7. Be3a621. Nf5Rd8

8. Qd2Be722. Qd5Qxf3

9. g4h623. Rg1Bf8

10. 0-0-0Bd724. Qc6+Rd7

11. h4b525. Bb6Be7

12. Kb1Nxd426. Ng7+Kf8

13. Bxd4b427. Qxd7Black

14. Ne2e5resigns

David R. Sands can be reached at 202/636-3178 or by e-mail at dsands@washington times.com.

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